Jessie Cole grew up in idyllic circumstances. A secure and happy childhood in a small town in northern New South Wales. Loving, relaxed, hippie-ish parents. A family home set in acres of rainforest garden she was free to explore. Carefree days spent with her younger brother, playing and exploring, swimming in the waterhole, observing animals and insects, attuned to the natural world. Cole writes compellingly of this childhood realm, in a way that tugged at my heart. I was reminded of my own growing-up days by the beach at Chelsea, and our house and garden that was a sanctuary and a kingdom.
But from the first pages of Staying, the reader is aware of tragedy that blights this perfect existence and slices her life apart. First her older step-sister commits suicide. Then her father, a psychologist, unravels. He becomes another person, abusive and unpredictable. When he also takes his life, the grief, shock and trauma take years for the remaining family to absorb and heal.
All of which sounds heavy – and it is – but this is also a tender story of loss and healing and home.
Staying by Jessie Cole, Text 2018, $32.99